Baku 6.TB: All Russian Final

by Alejandro Ramirez
9/29/2015 – It could not have been more exciting, or more unpredictable. Karjakin advances to the finals, but by the skin of his teeth. He lost his first game but came back with excellent positional play in round four. Eljanov had him against the ropes in game five, but blundered massively and lost. Again, Eljanov was winning, but missed... a three fold repetition! Karjakin is a finalist and in the Candidates.

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World Cup

10th September – 5th October

Baku, Azerbaijan

Semifinals - Tiebreaks

A very topsy-turvy day. Let us get right into the action. Eljanov struck the first blow:

Karjakin starting with a loss

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2015"] [Site "Baku AZE"] [Date "2015.09.29"] [Round "6.3"] [White "Eljanov, Pavel"] [Black "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A05"] [WhiteElo "2717"] [BlackElo "2762"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "79"] [EventDate "2015.09.11"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 c5 3. Bg2 Nc6 4. O-O e5 5. e4 (5. c4 d5 {leads to Maroczy type of positions}) 5... Be7 6. Nc3 d6 7. d3 O-O 8. a4 Nb4 {Even though it is hard to get rid of the knight here, I wonder what exactly it is doing on this square. I liked it better on c6, where it can go to d4 later.} 9. Nd2 $1 h6 10. Nc4 Bg4 11. Qd2 {Avoiding the subtle weakness of f3.} Bd7 12. Nd1 Re8 13. Nde3 Bf8 14. c3 Nc6 15. f4 exf4 16. gxf4 {White's position is rather nice. He controls more center and his plan is more obvious - an important asset in a 25 minute game!} Be6 17. Qf2 Bxc4 18. Nxc4 d5 19. exd5 Nxd5 {Black is making some progress by simplifying the center and getting some pressure on the e-file. However now Eljanov has the pair of bishops in an open position, the g2 bishop might be particularly powerful in the future.} 20. Bd2 Nf6 21. Qf3 Na5 22. Ne5 Qb6 23. Rab1 Rad8 24. Kh1 Qb3 $6 25. Be1 Qxa4 $6 {Shameless pawn grabbing, but this was not the time to do it.} 26. Bh4 $1 Rd6 27. Ra1 $1 {Black's pieces in the queenside are rather awkward. Eljanov immediately exploits this.} Qb5 28. c4 Qa6 29. d4 $1 Rxd4 (29... cxd4 30. b4 $18) 30. Qc3 $1 (30. Bxf6 gxf6 31. Rxa5 $1 (31. Qg3+ Bg7 32. Rg1 fxe5 {lets the queen back into the game via the 6th rank.}) 31... Qxa5 32. Qg3+ Bg7 33. Rg1 $1 {was also decisive.}) 30... Ne4 (30... b6 31. Bxf6 gxf6 32. Qg3+ Bg7 33. Rg1 {is a much easier to calculate version of the above}) 31. Qxa5 Qxa5 32. Rxa5 Nd2 33. Rd1 {White's basically up a piece.} Bd6 34. Bf2 Bxe5 35. fxe5 Nxc4 36. Bxd4 Nxa5 37. Bc3 Nc4 38. e6 Rxe6 39. Rd8+ Kh7 40. Bd5 1-0

Karjakin took an interesting approach to a must win game four. He chose a symmetrical pawn structure where his bishop was slightly better than his opponent's knight. He was always slightly better, and he made it seem like the endgame was simply child's play:

The audience cannot believe the tension

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2015"] [Site "Baku AZE"] [Date "2015.09.29"] [Round "6.4"] [White "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Black "Eljanov, Pavel"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A07"] [WhiteElo "2762"] [BlackElo "2717"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "109"] [EventDate "2015.09.11"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Bg4 3. Bg2 c6 4. c4 e6 5. cxd5 Bxf3 6. Bxf3 cxd5 7. O-O Nc6 8. d4 Nf6 9. Nc3 Be7 10. e3 O-O 11. Bd2 Rc8 12. Rc1 Nd7 13. Ne2 Nb6 14. Nf4 Nc4 15. Bc3 Bb4 16. b3 Nb6 17. Bb2 Qe7 18. Nd3 Ba3 19. Bxa3 Qxa3 20. Nc5 Rc7 21. Nxb7 Rxb7 22. Rxc6 Qxa2 23. Qd3 Nd7 24. Rb1 a5 25. Bd1 Nf6 26. Bc2 g6 27. f3 Qa3 28. Qc3 Qb4 29. Qxb4 axb4 30. Ra1 h5 31. h4 Re8 32. Kf2 Ree7 33. Ke2 Rec7 34. Rxc7 Rxc7 35. Kd2 Rb7 36. Ra8+ Kg7 37. Bd3 Nd7 {Black is solid, but passive. Karjakin starts opening up the position for his bishop. Even though this looks drawish to the naked idea, a deeper inspection shows that this is just unpleasant for Black.} 38. e4 dxe4 39. Bxe4 Rb6 40. Ra4 e5 41. Ke3 Kf6 42. dxe5+ {Not afraid of the symmetrical pawn structures. The bishop is superior to the knight and b4 is weak, Karjakin will work with this.} Kxe5 43. Ra5+ Kd6 44. Kd4 Rb8 45. Bd5 $1 {Dominating the board.} f6 46. Ra6+ Ke7 47. f4 Nb6 ( 47... Nf8 {is uncomfortable to play but maybe a better try. It's hard to imagine Black will hold on once he loses b4, though.}) 48. Ra7+ Kd6 49. Bf7 { The Russian player made it look easy! Black's position is already falling apart.} Rc8 50. Ra6 Kc6 51. Bxg6 Kb7 52. Ra5 Rc3 53. Be4+ Kb8 54. Rb5 Ka7 55. Rxh5 {Simply too many pawns, and Black can't even grab b3 yet.} 1-0

Karjakin with black again decided to repeat his unsuccessful play of round three. Eljanov was close to punishing his opponent, but sheer blindness gave away the point, and in retrospect, the match:


[Event "FIDE World Cup 2015"] [Site "Baku AZE"] [Date "2015.09.29"] [Round "6.5"] [White "Eljanov, Pavel"] [Black "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A05"] [WhiteElo "2717"] [BlackElo "2762"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "130"] [EventDate "2015.09.11"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 c5 3. Bg2 Nc6 4. O-O e5 5. e4 Be7 6. Nc3 d6 7. d3 O-O 8. a4 Nb4 9. h3 Re8 10. Re1 Bd7 11. Nd2 Bc6 12. Nc4 Bf8 13. Bg5 h6 14. Bxf6 Qxf6 15. Na5 Bd7 16. Nb5 Qd8 17. Nc4 Be6 18. c3 Nc6 19. Ne3 a6 20. Na3 Rb8 21. Nd5 Ne7 22. Nc4 b5 23. axb5 axb5 24. Nce3 Nxd5 25. Nxd5 g6 26. Ra7 Bxd5 27. exd5 Qb6 28. Qa1 c4 29. dxc4 bxc4 30. Re2 Rb7 31. Ra6 Qb3 32. g4 Rb6 33. Ra5 Rb7 34. Be4 Qb6 35. Ra6 Qd8 36. Qa4 Qb8 37. Kg2 Rd8 38. Qxc4 Rxb2 39. Rxb2 Qxb2 40. Ra7 Qb6 41. Rc7 {Eljanov is on the offensive in this position with opposite colored bishops. His position is certainly better as he is more active.} Bg7 42. h4 $2 (42. Qc6 $1 {makes Black's position very uncomfortable. For example:} Qb8 ( 42... Qxc6 43. dxc6 d5 44. Rb7 $1 {looks almost winning for White.}) 43. Rb7 Qc8 44. c4 $1 $16 {with domination. c5 is a threat, forcing a passed pawn.}) 42... Bf6 43. h5 $2 {Completely missing his opponent's ideas. This move simply gifts the game away.} Bh4 {Oops. f2 cannot be defended. The game is over, the queen on c4 is overloaded.} 44. Kh3 Qxf2 $6 (44... Bxf2 {is even stronger, but taking with the queen is certainly tempting.}) 45. Qd3 gxh5 46. gxh5 Bg5 47. Qg3 Qf1+ 48. Qg2 Qf4 49. Qg4 Qe3+ 50. Kg2 (50. Qf3 Qxf3+ 51. Bxf3 f5 {looks bad, but what else?}) 50... Rb8 51. Rc8+ Rxc8 52. Qxc8+ Kg7 {White's king is too weak. Eljanov simply cannot hold on to his position here.} 53. Qc4 Qd2+ 54. Kh3 Qd1 55. Qd3 Qxh5+ 56. Kg2 Qg4+ 57. Kh1 Bh4 58. Bf5 Qg5 59. Qf3 Be1 60. Bc2 Bd2 61. c4 Qh4+ 62. Kg2 Qxc4 63. Qf5 Qxd5+ 64. Be4 Qe6 65. Qh7+ Kf8 0-1

Karjakin won game three and put Eljanov's tournament life in danger

Eljanov, in a must win situation, chose some weird opening. It paid off beautifully. Karjakin was at a complete loss on what to do, and he ended in a strategically lost position. Then, disaster occurred:

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2015"] [Site "Baku AZE"] [Date "2015.09.29"] [Round "6.6"] [White "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Black "Eljanov, Pavel"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A04"] [WhiteElo "2762"] [BlackElo "2717"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "138"] [EventDate "2015.09.11"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] 1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 g6 3. d4 Bg7 4. d5 d6 5. Nc3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 f5 7. g3 Nf6 8. Bg2 Qa5 9. Qb3 Nbd7 10. Nd2 Nb6 11. O-O Bd7 12. Re1 Qa4 13. Bf1 Ne4 14. e3 O-O-O 15. Bd3 Nxd2 16. Bxd2 e5 17. f4 e4 18. Be2 h6 19. Kf2 g5 20. h4 Rdg8 21. Rh1 gxf4 22. exf4 Rg7 23. h5 Rhg8 24. Rhg1 Qa6 25. a4 Be8 26. Be1 Nd7 27. Ke3 Nf6 28. Rh1 Qa5 29. Bf2 b6 30. Rh3 Kd8 31. Be1 Ke7 32. Bf2 Kf8 33. Be1 Re7 34. Rh1 Rgg7 35. Ra3 Kg8 36. Bf2 Kh8 37. Be1 Rg8 38. Bf2 Reg7 39. Rh3 Qa6 {Black has obtained what must be a strategically winning position. All of his pieces are better and White's structure is shattered. And yet Eljanov has been unable to find a way in, and it is not easy to find at all. Karjakin, however, cracks under pressure.} 40. Qd1 $2 Ng4+ $1 {It seems silly to give up this knight, but Black gets to take all the pawns.} 41. Bxg4 fxg4 42. Rh1 Qxc4 43. Qe2 Qxd5 {Two pawns are two pawns.} 44. Rd1 Qe6 45. c4 Rd7 46. Rd5 Bf7 47. Be1 Qe8 48. Rf5 Kh7 49. Bc3 Be6 50. Rf6 Rf7 51. Rg6 {Trying to create complications, Karjakin gives away yet another pawn.} Rxg6 52. hxg6+ Kxg6 53. Ra1 h5 54. Rd1 Rd7 55. Qh2 Qd8 $2 (55... Bxc4 56. Qh4 Qd8 57. f5+ Kxf5 58. Qxh5+ Qg5+ 59. Qxg5+ Kxg5 {is just winning for Black, but it is easy to be scared of ghosts.}) 56. Ba1 d5 $2 {This move is hard to understand. He should simply take the free pawn when he can.} (56... Bxc4 57. Qb2 {i guess this was the point of ba1, but it comes with no threat at all.} d5 58. Qe5 d4+ $19) 57. cxd5 Rxd5 58. Qb2 Rd3+ 59. Ke2 Qd4 60. Qxd4 cxd4 61. Rxd3 Bc4 62. Bxd4 exd3+ 63. Ke3 {Opposite colored bishop endgames aren't easy, but luckily for Eljanov this one is winning.} Kf5 64. Bc3 a5 $1 65. Be1 Ke6 (65... Bb3 66. Kxd3 Bxa4 67. Bf2 Bb5+ 68. Kd4 (68. Kc3 Ke4 $19) 68... Be8 69. Kd5 b5 {and this is just over. White will eventually have to bring back the king and let the Black king in, or he will have to bring back the bishop after which h4 is a lethal breakthrough in the kingside.}) 66. Bc3 Kf5 67. Be1 Kf6 68. Bd2 Kg6 69. Bc3 Kf5 $4 {Trying to gain time, Eljanov misses the fact that this is a three-fold repetition. Karjakin correctly claimed it and won the match.} 1/2-1/2

A three-fold claim in a completely won position! A devastating way to end the tournament for Eljanov. He can cherish how well he did in this event, but it does not take away that he certainly had good chances to pass to the finals today.

Pavel Eljanov gained rating in every single classical game he played this tournament, gaining a total of 35.6. This is good enough for 13th best player in the World, according to the live ratings. He is even ahead of Grischuk now!

Dirk jan Ten Geuzendam got a very interesting interview with Karjakin after the tiebreaks:

Peter Svidler was on stage doing the commentary with Sergei Shipov on the tiebreaker match. He was rudely interrupted when the game finished, as he was summoned to draw the colors! Svidler will get white on the first game. Tomorrow is a rest day in Baku, the players will have some time to collect themselves before the finals.

Finals Pairings

Player Rtg
G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Peter Svidler (RUS) 2727
Sergey Karjakin (RUS) 2762

Semifinals Results

Player Rtg
G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Peter Svidler (RUS) 2727
Anish Giri (NED) 2793
Player Rtg
G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Sergey Karjakin (RUS) 2762
Pavel Eljanov (UKR) 2744

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Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez has been playing tournament chess since 1998. His accomplishments include qualifying for the 2004 and 2013 World Cups as well as playing for Costa Rica in the 2002, 2004 and 2008 Olympiads. He currently has a rating of 2583 and is author of a number of popular and critically acclaimed ChessBase-DVDs.
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Rational Rational 10/1/2015 11:12
Remember Karjakin nearly won the last candidates, Anand just help with rook vs 2 pieces in the last round. and Karjakin has won classical tournaments ahead of Carlsen
scoobeedo scoobeedo 10/1/2015 07:27
I have the highest respect for Svilder, even I support more Karjakin.

With all the new young super strong players coming up, he is still here and shows that he can compete with the young guns.

As I always say, he plays beautiful chess like a violin player, he is a "Fiddler".

- - -

If there would be a award for the player how smile the most, I think that Karjakin would have a chance to win.
Peter B Peter B 10/1/2015 01:44
jhoravi: Hou Yifan doesn't meet the 2725 cutoff either (the minimum rating to get a wildcard entry).
BeachBum2 BeachBum2 9/30/2015 09:31
among the 2 spots left based on average 2015 rating, Topalov will almost certainly get one. Giri might take another, though Kramnik or Grischuk could still theoretically get one (?) if they get more then 8 points (on average 2015). Yep, it would be a pity if no Aronian… Though I guess would be nice to see how So would do too. Do not think it makes sense for Hou Yifan to be there as it would likely make here a "unbalanced target everybody should try to score points from", with such elo difference (?). If lower elo were possible, would like to see Rapport or Ivanchuk, or some other guy with fun style… (even though they will have no chance).

Svidler v Karjakin. Strangely, my 2 favorites (like Svidler's fun commentary and Karjakin's pragmatic (though often boring) chess). I should have placed some bets! But they were so lucky though, and a lot of matches could have gone either way… Plus, some other guys knocked our many "heavyweights" from their paths… I hope hey can now play for fun, not "14 moves draws"… Or the other way - play first quick 14 moves games, but play some crazy fun games at the end…
Peter B Peter B 9/30/2015 07:23
If anyone "deserves" a candidates' wild card it's probably Aronian, because (a) he won the super strong Sinquefield cup, and (b) he is a realistic chance to win the candidates.
Peter B Peter B 9/30/2015 07:11
The candidates' regulations state that the wild card must have a rating of 2725 or over in the July 2015 list. Eljanov's rating in that list is 2723, so he is not eligible.

Anyway I think the wild card is pretty silly in a tournament of only 8.
CannibalOx CannibalOx 9/30/2015 04:43
Shak lost to Karjakin when he had winning position in first classical match and lost on time in first blitz game; Radja lost to Svidler and he also should've won in the last blitz game. It could've easily (well not easily but you get the point) been an all-Azeri final.
jhoravi jhoravi 9/30/2015 04:14
I vote Hou Yifan for WildCard! We need encouragement and inspiration for more girls to join chess.
vincero vincero 9/30/2015 03:12
these short games are very exciting
anonimous anonimous 9/30/2015 02:23
Eljanov will hardly get the wild card, unless Ukraine hosts the Candidates. Indeed, the wild card is *not* awarded by FIDE itself, but by the organizers of the Candidates tournament (I guess, in exchange for all the money that they put in) - under the condition that they nominate a player whose rating is at least 2725.

For instance, if the US hosts the Candidates it's reasonable to guess So is a favorite for the wild card. If Russia does, the names of Kramnik and Grischuk stand out. In case Armenia hosts the Candidates, then Aronian, if Azerbaijan then probably Mamedjarov... China could give it to Ding Liren I guess - and perhaps France to MVL?
Even in case the Candidates ends up being hosted by in a country with no legitimate candidates (e.g. Germany), Eljanov would hardly be the organizer's choice - his name recognition is just too little compared to Aronian or Kramnik's.
dkp aol dkp aol 9/30/2015 01:31
Go Karjakin !
HubertKnott HubertKnott 9/30/2015 01:09
I second tadeusz. Eljanov deserves consideration as a shoo-in for the wildcard on chess merits alone! FIDE should refrain from practices like giving the wildcard to grandmaster XYZ simply because XYZ happens to live near the tournament site. In other words, avoid sentimental grounds for choosing a wildcard.
chessdrummer chessdrummer 9/29/2015 08:59
This "weird" opening is the Dzindzi-Indian named after GM Roman Dzindzhihashvili.
Stupido Stupido 9/29/2015 08:19
Svidler will better stand the pressure.
tadeusz tadeusz 9/29/2015 08:16
I hope FIDE will offer a wild card to Elljanov for candidates. He deservers it because he played the best chess in this world cup.
Bojan KG Bojan KG 9/29/2015 08:04
Congratulations to both players. Eljanov has been playing fantastic chess throughout whole event. Karjakin was able to recover from defeat in first game of tie-break with resounding win in second tie-break game when I thought position was very drawish. He has shown character and his true potential. After all, someone has not been the youngest GM ever for nothing. Knowing they are already qualified for the Candidates both Peter and Svidler can be relaxed now and play high level chess.
Phillidor Phillidor 9/29/2015 08:00
Once I also managed to blew the win away with threefold repetition in an opposite colored bishops endgame two pawns up. Just after making my last move I calculated the win, then my opponent claimed a draw and immediately I knew; it wasn't three times consecutively, just as in Eljanov's case. "Let's repeat once, till it's 100% sure..."
satkul satkul 9/29/2015 07:57
as Sagar Shah had predicted,E;janov had a dream run in the tournament,which was bound to come to an end.Karja Svidler appears to be an even battle.Difficult to predict,but I believe most of the chesslovers would bet on Karjakin.

donwaffel donwaffel 9/29/2015 07:47
Go Svidler, crush him.
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 9/29/2015 07:46
how lucky karjakin is ! how unlucky eljanov is!!
jabbarabdul jabbarabdul 9/29/2015 06:45
making too many mistakes in one game, at this level is not understandable

Logos Logos 9/29/2015 06:22
"He lost his first game but came back with excellent positional play in round four. "

This explains Karjakin's deserved place in the final. He returned from the brink more than once. Against world-class opposition, that is quite an achievement. His presence of mind in a 10-minute game to claim a three-fold repetition is also noteworthy.
Petrosianic Petrosianic 9/29/2015 05:59
As Chessbase would say, Eljanov is Human!!